The Christmas holidays are a time of family and friends, good cheer, and great food. It’s a time that most people look forward to each year. Seeing loved ones you haven’t seen in months, sharing delicious food, and raising a toast to the possibilities that lie ahead. Christmas is a time of year that everyone should be able to enjoy.
Unfortunately, Christmas with an addict makes the holiday more challenging for all involved. Addiction in the family sings loud and clear without making a sound. Everyone around the holiday table is aware that your Uncle Steve seems a little bit too happy. Meanwhile, your cousin Evelyn is falling asleep at the other end of the table.
Enjoying the holiday festivities can be difficult when an addict shows up at the eggnog bowl. Still, there are things you can do to try to control the situation, if not eliminate it entirely. It might seem impossible but you can still enjoy Christmas with an addict. Here’s how!
1. CONTROL THE ENVIRONMENT
If you’re enjoying the holiday meal at the addict’s family home, you have to live by the rules of the house. That means you’re not in control. You have little say over how things play out or what is and isn’t acceptable for the evening. If you have the holidays at your home, you have greater control over what’s going on – and who’s had a bit too much to drink before dinner.
Keep the holidays simple. Offer to host the holiday gathering to keep things as manageable and controlled as possible. Having the Christmas celebration at your house lets you limit the number of moving parts and variables at play.
2. DON’T LET GUESTS MAKE THEIR OWN DRINKS
Giving guests the power to make their own drinks opens up Pandora’s box, especially if you’re spending Christmas with an addict. Delegate the bartending responsibilities to someone you trust for the evening who can monitor and limit how much your guests consume.
Lighten the amount of alcohol given to people who have problematic drinking behaviors. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to pour less alcohol to everyone if it’s going to be too big of a problem. Heavy alcohol consumption by anyone, whether alcoholic or not, is risky and unnecessary.
3. DON’T LEAVE THE LIQUOR OUT IN THE OPEN
If the liquor bottles are lined up on the counter, it’s too easy for the alcohol-addicted person to freshen their drink. Don’t leave liquor, beer, wine, or any other alcoholic beverages out in the open. Lock them away in a cabinet or keep them stored with the bartender you elected for the evening. Know where the alcohol is and who’s drinking what. Limiting the alcoholic’s access to alcohol is one of the most important ways you can try to enjoy Christmas with an addict.
4. TALK TO THE ALCOHOLIC OR OTHER SUBSTANCE ABUSERS BEFORE THE BIG DAY
Don’t accuse, but don’t excuse, either. Calmly explain your objective to have a wonderful day the whole family enjoys. An addict in denial may become angry at the suggestion that “I have an alcohol problem?!” and opt to spend the holidays elsewhere – with a more accepting host or hostess. Of course, this is sad, but would you rather have a belligerent, loud uncle at the table, or would you prefer that he stay away from the table altogether?
Explain that, of course, the addict is invited to the holidays. You would love to have them over for the gathering that’s planned but there will be certain rules and expectations in place that they will be held to. For example, you or your designated bartender will control consumption.
5. KEEP THE HOLIDAYS SIMPLE
First, don’t expect an addict to suddenly develop impulse control on Christmas morning. If they’ve had a drinking problem for a long time there won’t be a sudden Christmas miracle that cures them. They’ll likely display the same behaviors and maintain the same drinking patterns they have for the past months or years. Expect possible problems and prepare for whatever may arise.
Simplify everything from gift exchange to after-dinner clean-up. It doesn’t have to be fancy to be fun to make it easier on yourself – especially if you’re likely to get into the merlot a little early. You don’t need to have a large, extravagant get-together. The more simple and straightforward your gathering is, the easier it will be to enjoy Christmas with an addict.
6. HAVE A PLAN A, A PLAN B, AND EVEN A PLAN C
The best way to enjoy Christmas with an addict is to plan ahead of time. Have multiple plans. The more plans you have in mind the better. Prepare yourself for whatever situations might arise and know beforehand how you’ll handle them. Create a set of rules and expectations for those who come to your event.
For example, if cousin Tim is in his cups, hand him his coat and call a cab, or drive him home. The rules are simple and straightforward and you can explain them ahead of time:
1. Don’t indulge in excess.
2. Don’t ruin the holidays for other family members.
Plan how to handle uneasy scenarios ahead of time to prevent a small problem from ruining the holidays for everyone. You can have an enjoyable holiday evening with an addicted loved one while keeping them from taking over the evening.
7. IF A GUEST IS IN RECOVERY, HAVE LOTS OF FANCY NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINKS AVAILABLE
Don’t just pour a can of diet soda in a glass, especially if others will have fun, holiday-themed mixed drinks. There are lots of recipes for tasty concoctions for the alcoholic in the early stages of recovery. The less the addict feels like they’re sticking out, the less likely they are to act out. Offer plenty of non-alcoholic “mocktail”-type drinks for both the addict and anyone who might want one.
8. TEST THE ATMOSPHERE IN THE ROOM
A room of happy diners is a sign of a happy Christmas, but you aren’t the “fun police” so don’t take on that role. However, it’s good to keep an eye on things and keep a finger on the atmosphere in the room. If guests are uncomfortable (and you sense it) take control of the situation immediately. Send the offender to bed to “sleep it off” or send her home in a cab.
The best way to enjoy the holidays with an addict is good preparation, a clear understanding of expectations by all guests, and controlling the flow of alcohol and any other addictive substances. No, you aren’t the fun police, but you are the host or hostess so control Christmas with careful planning and preparation. You can make sure everyone has a good time without getting too out of control.
A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM HAWAII ISLAND RECOVERY
From all of your friends at Hawaii Island Recovery (HIR) we wish you a happy, joyous, sober and safe Christmas this holiday season. You can enjoy Christmas with an addict but the best gift is having your loved one sober on the holidays. If you are coping with an addict in the family, or if you’re the addict in the family, call Hawaii Island Recovery today to give the gift of sobriety to yourself and your loved ones – a gift they will thank you for throughout the year.